EFL Throws its Weight Behind Under-Fire Gambling Sponsorships

The English Football League has reiterated its support for clubs allowing gambling companies to sponsor them. The body states the £40m paid each-year is providing a lifeline for its members.

The English Football League (EFL) has backed the controversial involvement of gambling companies who sponsor teams in the league. They have reiterated the importance of the deals which provides over £40m in funding to clubs which the league describe as being “on a financial knife-edge”.

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EFL backs gambling sponsorship ©Pixabay.

The EFL, which has 72 member clubs, is calling for a “collaborative, evidence-based approach” to deal with gambling-related harm, an approach the EFL say would be more beneficial than a blanket ban.

The league highlight their main sponsor Sky bet, who appear on the sleeves of players who feature for EFL clubs, who they claim dedicate more than 70% of their matchday advertising to safer gambling causes.

The EFL state: “With more than £40m a season paid by the sector to the league and its clubs, the significant contribution betting companies make to the ongoing financial sustainability of professional football at all levels is as important now as it has ever been, particularly given the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which is leaving many of our clubs living on a financial knife-edge.”

The argument against football clubs having links with gambling companies is becoming louder, not just here in the UK but in many countries throughout Europe.

In Spain, the Spanish Minister of Consumer Affairs Alberto Garzón has proposed a series of measures which will toughen up regulations on betting companies. One of the measures he proposed was an outright ban on La Liga players wearing shirts that feature gambling companies. His “Royal Decree on Advertising” would also prevent gambling companies from being allowed to sponsor stadium names nor any other aspect associated with the teams.

Pressure on the EFL has been mounting this week after the Sunday Times newspaper claimed that the practice of clubs being sponsored by gambling companies would be outlawed after the current review of the 2005 UK Gambling Act. The paper claims that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will launch a call for evidence into gambling advertisements and sports sponsorship deals.

In response to the reports, the EFL states: “Our approach in respect of gambling sponsorship is under constant review, and the league will also contribute to any call for evidence by the government as we seek to protect an important and vital income stream for our membership in a time of financial crisis.”

They also went on the attack with regards to the government’s handling of the pandemic, saying there was “frustrating and perplexing” inconsistency in dealing with Covid-19. They added that the crisis had cost EFL clubs billions of pounds in revenue in lost ticket sales.

It is worth pointing out that the issue of gambling companies sponsoring football clubs has been raised long before the Covid-19 outbreak.

Carolyn Harris who chairs the Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), said gambling sponsorships normalise betting to children.

The Labour MP for Swansea East said she was “fairly confident” the law would shift when the new Gambling Act comes into force. She added: “It’s one of the most obvious things to do and all the groups who have reported or commented on this have said it is an area [ministers] need to tackle immediately. So I’m quite confident that will happen.”

Recently A House of Lords select committee made 66 recommendations concerning the future of gambling. Sports sponsorship deals were included in these recommendations with the committee favouring an outright ban. They, however, stated such a ban shouldn’t come into force until 2023.

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